Alas, the mid-season break begins, where fans wish for time to speed up for more NBA games while players hope for the opposite.
Fresh off the heels of the most jam-packed All-Star Weekend ever, with all events taking place in one evening, there’s extra time to mull over the weekend’s happenings given Utah Jazz fans won’t see the team back in action until Friday when they host the Houston Rockets.
Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Mike Conley represented Utah at his season’s festivities and gave everyone moments worth cheering for.
This got us thinking: the Utah Jazz belong at All-Star weekend, and the experience is better with Jazzmen involved.
Sure, a Jazz fan saying the Jazz belong and everything is better with Jazz players participating is obviously biased. What part of fandom isn’t biased? Furthermore, there’s a narrative and some empirical facts to support such a claim.
Let’s get into it.
History of Utah Jazz at All-Star Weekend
The Utah Jazz have a shockingly strong presence historically at All-Star weekend.
Despite being one of the smallest markets and having a reputation as the “uncool kid” around the league, the Utah Jazz have sent 1.02 players per season to All-Star weekend. That ranks 16th in the league.
While some would say that’s nothing to write home about, markets such as BKN (0.79), DAL (0.78), and LAC (0.61) are probably a bit envious of UTA.
Utah has sent Hall of Famers in Pete Maravich, Adrian Dantley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton to the All-Star game, winning MVPs nonetheless.
In recent years, Utah has sent multiple players participating in other events, like Deron Williams in the Skills Challenge, Jeremy Evans & Donovan Mitchell in the Dunk Contest, and as recent as yesterday, Mike Conley & Donovan Mitchell in the 3P Contest.
Furthermore, Utah is scheduled to host its second game in 2023. Factoring all games hosted and scheduled, Utah will have hosted as many games as big markets like Golden State, Washington, and Dallas.
They’ll have also hosted more games than popular and successful markets in San Antonio, Miami, Sacramento, and Toronto. Portland and Memphis have still yet to host a single game.
For supposedly being the “red-headed step-child” of the NBA, Jazz sure have been involved a lot, thanks in part to their own hard work and to league interest.
Recent All-Star Weekend performances
The Utah Jazz have had six All-Star selections in the team’s most recent era, starting with Hayward and ending with Gobert, Mitchell, and Conley, all selected as reserves.
By virtue of being a reserve, there’s only so much playing time with which to show out and make the NBA world #TakeNote. However, we’ve seen some neat highlights over the past couple years.
We saw Donovan Mitchell win the dunk contest his rookie season with tribute slams to Darrell Griffith and Vince Carter. He bested NBA darlings (at the time) in Victor Oladipo and Dennis Smith Jr.
Are you not entertained?!
In last year’s game, Rudy Gobert put on a show as a reserve with spectacular highlights en route to 21 points. In fact, Gobert scored more points per minute (1.10) than every other participant behind Kawhi Leonard (1.5) and LeBron James (1.2).
If alley-oops, put-back dunks, and swats from behind aren’t entertaining, what is basketball anymore? Would fans really prefer a Westbrook ISO or a Sabonis post-up? C’mon.
This year was an especially memorable Weekend with 12 year veteran Mike Conley being selected to his first game as an injury replacement to Devin Booker. No one will remember or care how he got there, an excellent and long-deserved player will go down with a selection to his name.
But the uniqueness of this season didn’t just end with Conley, Quin Snyder also made the 2021 All-Star game one to remember by coaching Rudy on Team LeBron. Despite a Hall of Fame coaching career, Jerry Sloan never coached an All-Star roster, making Quin just the second Jazz coach (behind Frank Layden).
Take a minute and revisit the highlights of our three All-Stars:
As mentioned previous, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley both participated in this year’s 3P Competition. Mike made the final round with Stephen Curry and Jayson Tatum and ultimately fell short after some incredible rounds.
In short, the Utah Jazz participated as much as any team and most other participants in the enjoyment of the game.
The fact is, the Utah Jazz belong at All-Star Weekend.
Being one of the most consistently good to great teams in the league, the Utah Jazz should always be in consideration for reserve spots with coaching selections.
With Donovan Mitchell poised to be a perennial All-Star and Rudy Gobert at his peak, Utah should continue to have an All-Star selection for the next few seasons.
It’s also a fact that the game is better with Gobert’s dunks, Donovan’s no look passes, and Conley’s 3P shots. Those plays are frankly more exciting than a post up or an isolation. The All-Star Weekend is about excitement and intrigue.
Though casuals may continue to mock Jazz players selected last on the playground, they walk away with more highlights and impact than half of the league’s best.
Now, on to the second half of the schedule where Jazz look to whip the floor with the competition. If only we didn’t have to wait until Friday.